HOW HAVE LIBERIA BEEN SPENDING MILLIONS FROM FIFA FOR FOOTBALL DEVELOPMENT?
TI’s Cobus de Swardt
Written by Danesius Marteh
A new report released by Transparency International (TI) shows that most of FIFA’s 209 members publish little or no information on what they do and how they spend their money. In a November 19 press release signed by Chris Sanders, TI said its report was based on a research into the governance structures to see how much information is publicly available about how they operate in the wake of the corruption crisis still engulfing the parent body. TI looked at Football Association (FA) websites to find information on financial accounts, governing statutes, codes of conduct and annual activity reports and emails were sent to all members to provide responses and or links to the information it needed.
The report, Transparency International Football Governance League Table, showed that 81 percent of FAs have no financial records publicly available; 21 percent have no websites and 85 percent publish no activity accounts of what they do. The information was divided into four categories in order to monitor their governance and standards: financial accounts, codes of conduct, charters/statutes and information on activities. Only Canada, Denmark, England, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Portugal, the Republic of Ireland and Sweden publish the minimum amount of information necessary to let people know what they do, how they spend their money and what values they believe in.
The Liberia Football Association (LFA) is one of 87 members, representing 42 percent, that scored zero points. That means they do not publish any relevant information about their organizations while 42 members don’t even have websites or websites that work. This is a stark contrast to the much-talked campaign promise of transparency and accountability that got Musa Hassan Bility the votes democratically needed to have dethroned Sumbo Izetta Wesley in March 2010.
Five years later, financial activities of the LFA are shrouded in secrecy and his pal, Edwin Melvin Snowe (who represents Montserrado County Electoral District #6 in the National Legislature and an ex-LFA president) is yet to make a comprehensive report on his mobilization committee that raised more than US$1 million during the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers since the 6-1 mauling in Calabar on October 13, 2012. The LFA has kept its financial records, which includes funds given by FIFA, corporate sponsors like Cellcom and government, from the public.
During the Liberia versus Guinea Bissau 2018 World Cup matches, government gave US$300,000 in addition to a US$500,000 it provided for the 2017 Afcon qualifier with Tunisia on September 5. When you add those amounts to funds collected from advertising deals with the Monrovia Oil Trading Company and Srimex Oil & Gas (owned by Bility), we should be talking about plenty money.
At a congress in Brazil in December 2014, FIFA approved US$300,000 as support for the preparation of and participation in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers to its members. Upon his return from Rio, Bility only spoken about a US$500,000 bonus and the annual US$250,000 financial assistance program (FAP) but reluctantly confirmed the news at a news conference on August 10.
“I don’t know why you people can’t listen to people. It is difficult to be repeating yourself. I have reported twice that that US$300,000 is even small. They [FIFA] should have given us US$1 million. Our budget for the World Cup qualifiers is US$3.5 million but it is stage-related,” he said in response to an inquiry from Sky FM’s Christopher Walker.
In total, FIFA gave US$1.3 million to its members after the Brazil congress as was explained by then secretary-general Jerome Valcke. “Following the final analysis of the financial results for the 2011-2014 cycle and a proposal made by the FIFA Finance Committee, the FIFA Executive Committee has approved additional financial support of US$300,000 for each of the member associations participating in the FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifiers. “A specific circular on this financial support will be issued after the required registration forms for the competition have been received by the FIFA general secretariat, the deadline for which is 14 January 2015.
“Consequently and in summary, this means that in 2015, each member association will be entitled to receive US$1,050,000: US$250,000 for the 2015 FAP; US$500,000 as a one-off financial bonus and USD$300,000 as support for the preparation of and participation in the 2018FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
“This sum is in addition to the first tranche of US$250,000 of the bonus that was made available after the 2014FIFA Congress. Therefore, the total one-off contributions made to FIFA member associations as a result of the good financial results of the 2014FIFA World Cup amounts to US$1,050,000 each plus, as mentioned, the normal 2015 FAP contribution of US$250,000, making a grand total of US$1,300,000,” said Valcke in a December 19, 2014 circular #1463.
To date, Liberia have benefitted from four Goal Projects, valued at more than US$2 million. The US$500,000 George Weah technical center in Caresburg, which is being constructed by Musons Group Incorporated, should have been dedicated in April but the LFA has pushed it to January.
The LFA argues that it is an autonomous agency ad has wrongly reminded its funding partners, including government, about interference, which FIFA has since red-carded. So does that prevent the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) from publicly stating how much government has given the LFA? Well, MFDP communications consultant Abraham Bernard Waritay hasn’t responded to a July 23 FrontPageAfrica freedom of information request, which was resubmitted on October 5 about government contribution to the national football teams.
So what does the TI report mean for FIFA’s members, including Liberia? “The risk of corruption at too many football associations around the world is high. This problem is made worse by the lack of information such as audited financial statements by many associations. “FIFA needs to enforce better governance on its members as well as on itself. The good that football can do is tarnished when corruption is allowed to flourish. “Any incoming president of FIFA must make it a priority to create more accountable governance throughout the organizations from the bottom, as well as from the top,” said TI managing director Cobus de Swardt of South Africa.
As part of series of recommendations to improve the governance of football, TI wants FIFA to mandate its members to publicize, as a pre-requisite for membership and financial assistance, audited financial accounts, an annual activities report, code of conduct and organizational statutes. It also wants FIFA to make easily accessible all charters and annual activity and financial reports of associations on its main website. TI said the six regional confederations should commit to publishing all relevant operational information on their websites, including financial accounts and codes of conduct.
For the first time, in 2014, FIFA required its members to submit audited financial reports as a prerequisite for future funding, which TI wants publicize. But FIFA commended TI for the report and said it remains committed to reform. “FIFA is committed to reform, and to instituting best-practice standards of accountability, transparency and good governance. It also encourages member associations to work towards those same standards.
“Additional measures to strengthen the member associations’ financial governance and management will be discussed at the upcoming FIFA executive committee meeting on 2-3 December 2015, including the obligation for the associations to publish their statutory annual reports and activity reports. “We note that Transparency International’s methodology for its report, which appears to consist of a search of internet pages, does not reflect the significant reporting that already exists at member association level and between member associations and FIFA.
“In accordance with the General Regulations for FIFA Development Program and FIFA circular no. 1469, member associations were responsible for providing FIFA, by 31 March 2015, with: an examination by an independent local auditor of the use of FIFA funds; their latest annual accounts; the corresponding statutory audit report presented to the general assembly; and the minutes of the general assembly.
“In addition, for each financial year, the FIFA general secretariat designates or randomly selects at least 20% of the member associations and the confederations for an examination to be performed by FIFA statutory auditor (or another auditing firm appointed by FIFA). “Subsequently, as at 18 November 2015, payments regarding FIFA development funds were blocked entirely or partially for 28 member associations,” the statement said.